It’s good to see the BBC licence fee being debated again.
This time it’s the Tories – no doubt keen to deflect some attention away from their own expense claims – suggesting that efficiencies can be made and that the fee be frozen.
Before I go on, I’ll admit to not being the BBC’s biggest fan. I believe it is too big, often goes too far in stepping on the toes of the independent media, and they once turned me down for a job (to be fair I did call one of the interviewers an elitist, posh school cunt).
More importantly, the BBC as an organisation, like our MPs, has taken the taxpayer for granted.
I do accept and strongly believe that parts of the BBC are very important and need protection. It’s news coverage is vital. Its original programming has clearly raised and kept the standards of our television high.
However, there are many other parts of the corporation which need to be trimmed.
I’d put money on there being a few expense scandals lurking in Aunty’s murky corridors.
Some of those we know already know about seem massively excessive to me.
* £33k a day on taxis.
* £120k on a Christmas party for 2,500 staff.
* £45k on a launch party for Merlin.
Then there are the salaries of its ‘stars’. Would you rather spend £2m a year for Jonathan Ross or support 200 well paid journalists? Ross may attract decent audience figures, but his shows could (and probably would have been) easily be provided by another channels without cost to the tax payer.
Earlier this month we had the startling revelation that news reader Carrie Grace earns £92,000 a year for reading out loud. Ok, she’s an award-winning interviewer (although she handled that expenses one appallingly), but I don’t think it’s a stretch for the Beeb to find some equally talented for half that wage.
Afterall, there are (or were) thousands of talented journalists out there, including huge numbers working for less than £25k or even £20k in the regional press.
The digital channels – do we really need to spend so much on so many when the audience share is so low?
Do we really need regional news websites which steal most of its content from the regional press before cutting them down to a very superficial summary?
And then my real pet hate – the regional BBC radio stations. They offer very similar products to what’s already available commercially. How is it a pubic service to repeat what is already being provided by a non-state funded company?
All they do is take business away from non-state funded companies and deny local firms a platform to advertise.
So particularly in these trying times – the Beeb needs to take a long hard look at how it is spending its money.
But the bits of the BBC which provide genuine public service – in particular its journalism – need protection.
A free press/media is vital to a successful democracy, and it’s incredibly important to have news and issues debated by news organisations with differing political slants. Where we’re lucky in this country is that in the BBC, we have a service which reflects the news agenda from a neutral perspective very well.
It tries incredibly hard to present the facts and various points of views without taking sides and letting the reader make up its own mind, free from the bias of owners or market forces.
So before any cuts are made of the licence fee, the money it spends on its (national) news coverage needs to be secured.